National Archives Foundation Honors Taylor Branch with Records of Achievement Award
October 29, 2015
The National Archives Foundation honored American author and Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch with its 2015 Records of Achievement Award at a black-tie gala at the National Archives last night. The honor recognizes Branch’s lifelong work to chronicle the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the history of the Civil Rights movement in his landmark series America in the King Years.
The Records of Achievement Award is an annual tribute given to an individual whose work has cultivated a broader national awareness of the history and identity of the United States through the use of original records, including those preserved by the National Archives.
Foundation Chair A’Lelia Bundles, Executive Director Patrick M. Madden, and former Attorney General Eric H. Holder joined Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero in presenting the award.
“As our nation observes the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, it feels especially appropriate to salute Taylor Branch’s meticulous scholarship and his gift for bringing the details of that pivotal era to life,” said Foundation Chair Bundles.
“Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning narrative history of the United States during the Civil Rights era has shaped the public’s understanding of this transformative period of American history,” said Archivist of the United States Ferriero.
“The country’s living history is found within the walls of the National Archives. Last night’s event gave us the chance to showcase not just Taylor Branch’s legacy, but the breadth and depth of the stories in the National Archives,” said Foundation Executive Director Madden.
“From marriage equality, to law enforcement engagement with the communities they are sworn to protect and serve, to that most fundamental American right – the right to vote –the need to learn from the civil rights struggles of the past remains vital and urgent,” added Holder.
Mr. Branch’s efforts to preserve the legacy of one of the most influential periods in American history emphasizes the essential value that the National Archives, with facilities throughout the country, continues to provide in recording and protecting American history. National Archives holdings include original records of the Civil Rights movement including the landmark legislation outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“I am humbled to join the list of scholars and artists recognized by the National Archives Foundation,” said Taylor Branch. “Because our country is founded on an idea rather than a language or ethnicity, the U.S. National Archives can serve an inspirational purpose: to light the future by confronting the past. I salute your mission.”
Last night’s gala included a red carpet reception, an awards ceremony in the Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater, and a seated dinner in the Rotunda Galleries, celebrating the public-private partnership between the National Archives and the nonprofit National Archives Foundation. Soulful Revue – the all-male ensemble choir for which Branch serves as Director – made a surprise appearance, with a shocked Branch joining them in an impromptu performance.
Previous recipients of the Foundation’s award include: Steven Spielberg, Tom Brokaw, Ken Burns and David McCullough.
The Gala and Records of Achievement Award Ceremony is made possible with the leadership support of AT&T. Major support provided by Governor Jim Blanchard and Janet Blanchard, and the Maris S. Cuneo Foundation. Additional event support from Marvin F. Weissberg.
About the National Archives Foundation
The National Archives Foundation is an independent nonprofit that increases public awareness of the National Archives, inspires a deeper appreciation of our country’s heritage, and encourages citizen engagement in our democracy. The Foundation generates financial and creative support for National Archives exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives, introducing America’s records to people around the U.S. and the world. Learn more at: archivesfoundation.org.
About the National Archives
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, so people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The agency supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at: archives.gov.
About Taylor Branch
Mr. Branch has dedicated more than four decades to chronicling American history, including the civil rights movement, the presidency of Bill Clinton, and the legacy of college sports. Mr. Branch’s research into Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement lead to the publishing of the first book in his landmark series about the time, America in the King Years, and a Pulitzer Prize. The 2,912-page trilogy required more than 24 years of extensive research, and has been compared to other epic history collections such as Shelby Foote’s The Civil War and Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. In 2009, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President was published, revealing former President Bill Clinton up close and unguarded thanks to their 20-year friendship and both parties dedication to the preservation of this raw, in the moment historical account. The collaboration between Mr. Branch and President Clinton resulted in an unprecedented eight-year project to gather a sitting president’s comprehensive oral history on tape, at the initiative of President Clinton. In October 2011, he published his first work on the legacy of college sports in America, a piece in The Atlantic entitled, “The Shame of College Sports,” which author and NPR commentator Frank Delford declared “may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.” The article was followed up by with his 2011 book The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA, which inspired the documentary film “Schooled: The Price of College Sports,” which Mr. Branch co-produced.
Mr. Branch began his career in 1970 as a staff journalist for The Washington Monthly, Harper’s, and Esquire. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from ten colleges and universities. Other citations include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, awarded to him by President Clinton at the D.A.R. Constitution Hall. Sample of book reviews, lectures, media appearances, blogs, printed commentary, and musical tracks are available on the website, taylorbranch.com